REVIEW: ‘The Dollhouse Family,’ Issue #1 (of 6)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Dollhouse Family #1 

DC Comics’ new imprint Hill House Comics welcomes the debut of its second series with the deeply disturbing gothic horror of The Dollhouse Family. The first issue is written by M.R. Carey, with art by Peter Gross and Vince Locke, colors by Cris Peter, lettering by Todd Klein. With Basketful of Heads #1 coming out just in time for Halloween, The Dollhouse Family #1 offers up a story about Alice, a six-year-old who receives the 19th-century dollhouse for her birthday complete with a family of antique dolls.

Soon, the dollhouse isn’t just Alice’s favorite toy, it’s her whole world and she soon learns that she can enter the house to visit a new group of friends, straight out of a heartwarming children’s novel: the Dollhouse family. But while the Dollhouse family welcomes her with open arms, in the real world, her family life is becoming much more complicated and then the Dollhouse offers to fix all of it but only if Alice agrees to its terms.

The Dollhouse Family #1 uses pieces of Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking Glass in an inventive way, threading it through the story in a way that keeps it from feeling too on the nose and allowing for a unique story to take place. Additionally, the use of period elements serves to deepen the supernatural elements of the story with a gothic and pulpy feeling. Most importantly, Carey succeeds in building out a world of three spaces: Alice’s home life in the 1980s, a surveyor exploring an underground area in the 18th century, and finally the living world of the Dollhouse Family.

With each area, Carey builds out a unique setting and cast of characters that have depth and identity. While the supernatural elements of the Dollhouse Family and the sleeping ancient power that connects all three areas of the story are interesting, The Dollhouse Family #1 focuses on delivering a story that puts Alice’s relationship with her parents and their relationship with each other at the center.

Alice’s family is normal at first, a two parent-home, a loving relationship with her mother, a father focused on work. Then, as the years pass it all devolves. With all the anger and abuse, all Alice has is her dollhouse and the hopelessness of not being able to help her mother. Carey’s writing is stellar and eerie, with this issue clearly setting up for larger more grand moments to come in the series.

Gross and Locke’s art is atmospheric and has a pulpy sketchbook quality that Peter’s colors set the tone to each piece of the story. There is a beauty and darkness that hums from the art, it’s raw in a way that embodies a gothic story perfectly. While there are elements of Through the Looking Glass, there is also a horror that runs through the issue that feels like Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill HouseThis balance of fantasy, darkness, and gothic horror is a gorgeous mix.

The Dollhouse Family #1 is a wonderful world-building first issue and the intense ending that will leave readers clamoring for more. With two series out now for Hill House Comics, it’s undeniable that this new imprint pop up is a horror force for comics and The Dollhouse Family is a must-read.

The Dollhouse Family #1 is available wherever comics are sold.

The Dollhouse Family #1 
5

TL;DR

The Dollhouse Family #1 is a wonderful world-building first issue and the intense ending that will leave readers clamoring for more. With two series out now for Hill House Comics, it’s undeniable that this new imprint pop up is a horror force for comics and The Dollhouse Family is a must-read.